As you know, I read, watch, and listen to the most credible sources I can find about our brains.
Last week I shared insights on coping with the anxiety that today’s news causes (see Staying Mentally Healthy in a COVID-19 World). Now I am sharing with you how I am giving my immune system every chance to stay strong.
Our immune system is the group of cells and molecules that protect us from disease by monitoring our bodies. They attack any foreign (non-self) substances they perceive as threats, particularly infectious microbes. Our immune system has co-evolved along with our diverse gut flora. This symbiosis not only creates defences against pathogens but also helps us tolerate beneficial microbes. The importance of this interaction is highlighted by the fact that 70-80% of the body’s immune cells are found in the gut. (source: https://neurohacker.com/how-the-gut-microbiota-influences-our-immune-system by Sara Adaes, Ph.D. 2019)
There are several ways to boost your immune system.
Knowing this, I eat lots of veggies like leeks, onions, garlic, and fruits like apples and berries. I eat lentils and chickpeas, poultry and fish, cheese and nuts. I also use plenty of extra virgin olive oil and drink the occasional glass of red wine. Once in a while, I have a piece of 70% dark chocolate. These foods act like fertilizer for your “inner garden” by nourishing gut bacteria and creating a diverse microbiome.
I also take 2 tablespoons per day of a kefir called The Cultured Coconut to boost the number and diversity of my gut flora. This local organic product is now available across Canada and in parts of the USA. It is by far the best Probiotic (and least expensive) I know. If you would like to know more science behind this product (I have no financial interest in it), please contact me at email@example.com.
For more information, see Your Gut has a Brain.
Reduce Your Stress
When you catch yourself imagining your ‘worst-case scenario’, take some deep breaths and say, “the probability of catching the virus in Canada is 200 per 1,000,000, which is 0.0002%.” Then turn your thoughts to other interests. Listen to a credible news source only once or at the most twice per day.
Keep yourself occupied with any of the following.
- Rejuvenate a favourite hobby.
- Take an online tour of a museum, zoo, or art gallery: https://www.travelandleisure.com/attractions/museums-galleries/museums-with-virtual-tours
- Research an interest – prepare a presentation with text and graphics. Then present it to people in your home or post it online.
- Build your skills playing music – check online for help from your favourite musician.
- Keeping your social distance, take someone for a walk or older person’s dog for a walk.
- Meditate. If you are new to this, check online for help.
- Find many ways to exercise – for 5 minutes every hour or by following an online program.
- Play Scrabble with each other or online. Ditto with Monopoly and other popular games.
- Look up https://bookcreator.com/ and write a book.
- Develop your foreign language skills by trying out Duolingo or Babbel.
- Write a journal.
- Do some gardening for yourself or for someone who needs help with his/her garden.
- Call family members and friends more frequently than usual.
- Call or text a relative and/or a friend you have not contacted in a while.
The USA Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends…
“The data show that people who exercise daily get fewer respiratory infections,” said Bruce Barrett, University of Wisconsin Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, June 2018. In two studies, Barrett randomly assigned roughly 560 people to a control group, to do daily moderate-intensity exercise, or to reduce stress via meditation for four to eight months.
Compared to the control group, the meditators reported 20% fewer respiratory infections, and the exercisers’ illnesses were 23% shorter (the equivalent of being sick for 1½ fewer days during a weeklong illness). (Granted, the study wasn’t “blinded,” so those groups could have expected to avoid colds or get well faster.) “I can’t say that we’ve proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that these things work,” said Barrett. “But the body of evidence is such that we’re pretty sure they do. But there’s no downside to exercising or practicing stress reduction.”
Get Enough Sleep
Aric Prather, Ph.D. and other researchers monitored the sleep patterns of 164 people for a week. “Then we shot the cold virus into their nose, quarantined them in a hotel for five days, and tracked who got sick.”
Their results showed “The odds of getting sick were four times higher in people who slept six hours or less a night than in people who slept seven hours or more. And that was after accounting for factors that are linked with getting a cold, like age, stress, and exercise.” “These results lend support to the idea that sleep is critical to health,” adds Prather.
In summary, you can boost your immune system by eating well, reducing your anxiety, exercising more often, and sleeping longer. Please let me know what is working for you at firstname.lastname@example.org.